On March 13, 2012 Jasmine Waters, aka @Jasfly descended on Austin, Texas to attend her very first South By South West (SXSW) music and film conference. This is her story…
DAY ONE: Tuesday
The Austin International Airport is a zoo. I’ve never seen so many struggling artists in one place in my entire life. Where’d they get the money for airfare?
Anyway, skirting the two-hour line for a taxi and the 45-minute wait for the shuttle, we decided to bus it into downtown and head straight for the SXSW Mecca – The Convention Center. I’d been hearing all week about the two-hour lines to pick up credentials and if I had to sacrifice any evening, might as well be Tuesday. But low and behold the convention center’s empty. SCORE. 15 minutes in and out. Now I’m so official, all I need is a whistle. *Body roll, body roll*
That’s when it happened: the holy grail of all come ups…The Ray-Ban Car.
The eyewear company dispatched 20 cars upon Austin, 15 to act as cabs, 5 as car service. His name was Phil, a former child actor now living in Austin and more than happy to escort us throughout the next four days…for free. *Harlem shake*
First stop? The screening of the new Lance Gross film ‘The Last Fall’, a drama about a former NFL player who’s career suddenly ends at 25. First-time Director Matthew Cherry made some great choices and delivered a solid film. Avoiding the coontastic stereotypes of Tyler’s lane and the preachy monologs common in TD Jakes films, The Last Fall felt organic. Cherry will go far…Also Lance is a 6ft bar of dark chocolate. (cue some nasty Rihanna song)
After the film we went in search of BBQ, but wound up in an open-air Italian spot instead. The last thing I really remember was the waitress opening the second bottle of wine…
DAY TWO: Wednesday
Everyone’s here. The city is buzzing. My phone is going crazy. The first stop of the day is The Fader-Converse Fort where apparently my uber-minor celebrity is enough to score an additional wristband. Then it’s off the convention center (here-by referred to as Mecca), for my first panel From The Blocks To The Blogs with Karen Civil, Elliott Wilson, Devi Dev and a few other digital and music note worthy’s. But of course it was Elliott who gave me my first nugget, ‘Once you tweet something, you’re automatically on the record.’
Quick stop at a Mexican tapas spot for a couple of watermelon martinis (I‘m such a stereotype) and then it’s back down to 4th ave to meet up with 2 Chainz for a chat…
Only 2 Chainz isn’t there.
Def Jam VP’s Sha Money XL and Allison Schuleter do their best to keep us entertained with drinks and wings as we all wait for the former Duffle Bag Boy to appear. But he doesn’t. Apparently 2 Chainz was too busy ridin around and forgettin’ it…
Next stop is The Belmont for the SOB’s 30th Anniversary Show, hosted by my JumpOff TV cast mate LowKey from YouHeardThatNew and on the one’s and two’s, Meka from 2DopeBoyz.
Elle Varner, Miguel and a host of other acts kept the crowd moving…Then the night got really interesting. 2 Chainz (side-eye) takes the stage and the crowd goes wild. I suspend my saltiness towards the rapper long enough to enjoy his performance and then his first guest comes out…Big Sean! I LOVE Big Sean. That wirey Detroit native knows how to put on a show. But he’s small fries compared to the next guy.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere and Kanye West pops up. But every single time feels like the very first time.
Ye takes the stage – remember this is the many truly responsible for alerting commercial Hip Hop to SXSW almost 4 years ago – and Make and Low sort of force him into the first verse of Cant Tell Me Nothing…DOPE.
How do you follow up a surprise Ye performance? You don’t. As Slaughterhouse took the stage, I hopped in my Ray-Ban car and took my tired ass home.
DAY THREE: Thursday
First stop of the day was a taco truck for to test out these breakfast tacos I kept hearing so much about…whomp whomp. Apparently if you don’t eat beef or pork, the great state of Texas doesn’t care much about you.
Second stop of the day to the store for some cereal. Then back over to Mecca where BET did a panel on Taking The Throne: How The Brand Is The New King with Kevin Liles, BET’s own VP Reggie Williams, Roc PR Jana Fleischman, Kendrick Lamar and Twitter Music VP Tatiana Samoa. Talk about a wealth of information. Watching vets like Jana and Kev speak on what they’ve done over the years, juxposed with what Kendrick’s figuring out now, all wrapped around what Tatiana wants you to do with it…If you were an aspiring artist and you didn’t attend this panel, you lost. It also didn’t hurt that it was moderated by TJ Holmes whose open collar-slightly bare-chest look kept my attention when things started to drag. Don’t you dare judge me.
Following the panel, Jana, Elliott Wilson and I were whisked away in a Pedi cab over to The Imperial Garage for The Hot 97 J Cole show. It’s so DOPE watching this kid rise. I first met him two years ago when he did my PSA for Haiti earthquake relief. Then he was nervous – having never done on camera work – now we couldn’t walk from the tour bus to the stage without three Army rangers holding back the crying fans (both male & female). Cole killed it. Clearly at home on stage, he ran through his album highlights and features before closing the show.
I thought the last stop of the night was the Nikon-Warner stage to watch TI make his SXSW debut. Backstage Tip was all smiles and he and the wife entered. He’s gotten buff. On stage he ripped it. Security at the venue was ill equipped and their attitudes ruined much of the show for us.
Then Peter Rosenberg appeared and invited Low to co-host the Interscope/Geffen after party…which was being held at 2am at a Masonic Temple. *Awkward*
I’m not going to lie, I got wasted. I’m not particularly proud of this, but I did. Let’s move on.
DAY FOUR: Friday
Steve Stoute and Nasir Jones both made their SXSW debuts in a big way with a panel conversation simply dubbed The Interview. Watching the two longtime friends and partners was amazing. The chemistry between them made it easy to understand how Stoute aka The Commissioner helped Nas transform from the project hustler to the legend we see today. Jones was candid, unabashed and funny.
After, a select few of us were invited to a swank Austin restaurant for a private dinner and toast to Stoute and Nas. Joined by AZ, Stalley and a handful of artist managers and label heads, we toasted to The Interview, SXSW and to drinks themselves. Whoever thought that Hip Hop could take it this far?
Next up was The Def Jam showcase hosted by Peter Rosenberg and LowKey (who decided he was going to host every single show at SXSW apparently…kidding). Despite performances by Machine Gun Kelly and Big K.R.I.T., the big get of the night was Rosenberg’s onstage interview with Nas, which although entertaining, wasn’t nearly as dynamic as his earlier chat with Stoute.
After the talk I headed over to the 2DopeBoyz house party.
DAY FIVE: Saturday
Music History Day.
I got up early and headed to Mecca to watch Dan Charnas and Steve Stoute go toe to toe over the impact of commercialism in Hip Hop. Both authors of books I love, Charnas and Stoute presented an interesting dynamic. Charnas – a working-class Jewish Hip Hop purist questioned Stoute’s – a wealthy Black Hip Hop salesman – belief that despite corporate interference, the culture would be ok. The sheer tension of it all was great.
Then I scurried over to The Redbull Station to watch Hip Hop OG’s Young Guru and Bun B discuss how the south met the east to make sweet music together. Bun was as open as always, continuing to solidify what a treasure he is.
I made it back to Mecca just in time to catch Charnas hosting a retrospective on Soul Train with Don Cornelius’ son Tony. It was great to watch old clips, and listen to Tony’s stories about everything from Don’s suits to how he came to own the rights to his game-changing show – he simply asked, and the short-sided network (figuring it wouldn’t be worth much) obliged. What a hip trip that was.
With the panels over, a group of journalists and I went in search of some BBQ…whomp whomp.
Instead we found the Motorola/Vh1 Café where we were treated to a three-course lunch, complete with mimosas.
Then it was off to The Fader–Converse Fort where the festival would close with a performance by Rick Ross.
I sat there on the side of the stage for a moment, taking in Austin, reflecting on all the shows I’d seen, music I’d heard, the information I’d learned, artists I’d ran into and couldn’t help but feel like champagne was the perfect way to end my first SXSW experience.